Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, CONVOY, by ELIZABETH SEWELL HILL



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CONVOY, by            
First Line: The smoke hung low on the sand-duned shore
Last Line: Sound four?
Subject(s): Disasters; Ferry Boats; Sea; Shipwrecks; Ocean


The smoke hung low on the sand-duned shore
And mist-bound tide;
No sun was there as the daylight wore
Nor light to guide,
And the lake lay hushed where the grain fleet bore
At eventide.

Signals sounded far out at sea
Thro' the merciless greys;
Foghorns bayed back lustily
Over truant ways—
But safety rode on that one—two—three!
And lengthened days.

The big barge forged on till the clamor stilled
Out of widening greys,
And only the far-off echoes spilled
Thro' the silences,
While the blind stars, safe in their courses, willed
Down the distances.

The Point juts far in its final throe
Toward the evening star;
And shallows spread wide ere the sea breaks snow
On the outer bar.
(It is three blasts for warning, and four blasts for woe-
oS the signals are.)

'Twas double the ferry loomed, gliding in to
The lights of the town;
And double the lights ranged the waiting slip thro'
Where the moorings drown;
And the pattern dissolves to be fashioned anew,
Looking down.

The big ferry turned at the outer bar,
Swinging wide to sea,
Steaming into the south, calling long, sounding far,
Sending "One—two—three!"
To the sister ship where the shallows are,
Looming fixedly.

A message sounding far out at sea
As the long night wore;
A summons, sounding incessantly,
Sounding close inshore;
And out of the mists it was—"One—two—three!"
And back from the shallows—"Four!"

But 'twas blind thro' the greys of the starless sea,
While the long hours wore,
The big ferry sounded insistently,
Edging close inshore,
Sounded "Coming—coming—coming!"
So—"One—two—three!"
And nearer the answer—"Four!"

Now Danger, drunken with 'larums at sea,
On even keel
Skirts in toward the hulk looming heavily,
While the cables reel
Down the bar's long side, breathing sleepily,
As the shadows steal
And it's "Hand across!" and the barge breaks free
Under straining wheel.

And it's double the lights on the homeward way,
Gleaming mistily;
Throb answering throb thro' the melting greys,
Humming drowsily;
While hearthfires beckon, and bounteous days
Bend luringly.

So, slow and slower—there the breakers creep
And dumb—
To the lamp's great heart, past the span's far leap
They come
Down the ranging lights where the moorings sleep,
Safe home!

Dear heart, if someday, somewhere, in the greys
Of life's further sea,
While the signals clamor down lengthened days
Hoarse minstrelsy,
As I grope toward the star, seeking sun-kissed bays—
Or shallows be,
Or the signal sound over truant ways,
Will you come to me?

Should the mists spreading far, grow strangely chill
And dumb,
While the changing wheel, half round, strains still
And numb,
And the bar, breast on, down the silence spills,
Will you come?

If out in the winding, wearying pall
The signal score,
Or in where the lamp's blurred message falls,
Sounding close inshore—
My friend, shall you answer should my soul's call
Sound four?





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